Christiana was born in London, raised in Eastern Europe, and moved back to the UK to attend boarding school at the age of 13. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management and has recently completed a Master’s in Entrepreneurship at King’s College London, by the age of 22. Alongside her academic pursuits, she ventured into modelling, where she gained valuable industry insights and earned her first income, which she used to invest in her own swimwear brand, “Dear Lover.” Christiana is in a relationship with her long term partner who has encouraged and supported her through all her pursuits.
1. Can you share with us the inspiration behind starting your swimwear brand, “Dear Lover” and how your academic background in Business Management and Entrepreneurship played a role in this venture?
I have dedicated six years of my academic journey to study Business (and Entrepreneurship), beginning from my A-levels to the completion of my Masters degree. While my educational background laid the foundation for my entrepreneurial venture, the true wealth of knowledge came from my hands-on experience when I started my business. The practical lessons I gained from starting a business from scratch were significantly different from what I had learned in the classroom.
The driving force behind the creation of my brand ‘Dear Lover’, was a strong desire to create something uniquely my own. In an industry where many brands offer extremely affordable swimwear, often at the cost of poor labour conditions as well as poor product quality, I aimed to provide an alternative, a more-affordable luxury piece. Something timeless and durable that could be worn summer after summer. My vision was to cultivate a loyal customer base, clients who would return to us season after season, and I am proud to say that this has come to be true.
2. You’ve had a diverse upbringing, from London to Eastern Europe. How has this multicultural background influenced your approach to fashion and entrepreneurship? **
I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have the best of both worlds, as I spend a lot of time in both London and Bulgaria. Moving to the UK on my own at a very young age instilled in me a strong sense of discipline as well as determination, helping me pursue all of my goals down the line.
Bulgaria has been the foundation of everything I undertake, as it’s where my brand is based and manufactured, and also where my first modelling agency is based. I then got scouted by a modelling agency in London and also began receiving Dear Lover orders from the UK. Today, the UK serves as an integral part of my business, accounting for over 20% of our orders.
3. Transitioning from modeling to running your own swimwear brand is quite a leap. Can you tell us about the key lessons or insights you gained from your modeling career that helped you succeed in the fashion industry?
Modelling has been a significant part of my career as it helped me earn income that I used as an investment to launch Dear Lover. However, throughout my modelling career I have also gained valuable insights that have given me the courage and confidence to launch. I began to understand a lot of insights on marketing during photoshoots for other brands. Meeting amazing photographers during modelling shoots that have now become trusted partners in photographing images for my own brand.
4. What are the core values or messages you aim to convey through “Dear Lover,” and how do you believe they resonate with your target audience?
Our clients are always keeping themselves well-informed regarding the latest trends, but they also value classic and timeless pieces. They aren’t merely seeking the most affordable option, rather, they understand the value of investing in their swimwear and are conscious of the ethical aspects of their purchases. Dear Lover’s mission is to make women feel unique, elegant, luxurious. I believe women deserve to indulge in the feeling of sophistication through wearing high quality and unique pieces on their body.
Our best sellers, ‘Baby Pink’ and ‘Azure Blue’, represent the desire of women to embrace individuality and make a statement. While Dear Lover does offer a selection of timeless classics including white, nude and black, we are also proud to offer a range of exceptionally unique colours such as ‘Amethyst Purple’ and ‘Emerald Green’.
5. Balancing academics, modelling, and running a business at such a young age is impressive. Could you share some strategies or tips for time management and maintaining focus on your goals?
I began each of my endeavours one by one. Of course, my academics have always been my priority. I always knew I wanted to model, but I waited until I was settled into university before taking modelling seriously. During my final year of university, I dedicated my spare time planning my start up and testing designs and materials, allowing me to launch just before graduating my bachelors before I began my Masters.
I believe in the importance of immediate action once you get an idea in your mind. Nothing happens overnight and the first step always seems difficult until it’s done. Once the initial hurdle is conquered, everything that follows is smooth and simple. I personally don’t view any of my endeavours as “hard work” because I find them enjoyable. You need to like what you do.
Managing time effectively doesn’t necessarily require any complex strategies. I believe the best way to manage your time is to identify your priorities. Make a list of what you want to achieve and the steps you will take to get there.
6. Your relationship with your long-term partner seems to be a source of support and encouragement. How has their involvement influenced your journey in entrepreneurship and fashion?
I will forever be thankful to my partner for his supporting me through everything I do. He is a constant source of motivation and encouragement as well as reassurance. He has encouraged me to go after my goals and has deeply inspired me to leave my comfort zone. His support has been extremely appreciated throughout the last three years.
7. In today’s digital age, online presence is crucial for brand success. What role has social media played in growing “Dear Lover.” and do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs on effective online branding?
Social media has become an integral part of today’s society. I view social media as business. When it comes to launching and running a business, I can’t envision myself doing it without the power of social media. As we are living in a digital age, we must make the most out of it and use it to our advantage. Establishing your own presence on social media also means you can effectively reach and engage with a broader audience and potential clients.
Posting quality content consistently is the key to success in regards to social media marketing, however, this is not always as simple as it sounds. I have used Instagram Ads, as well as my own personal Instagram account in order to boost brand awareness and sales.
8. As a woman entrepreneur, what challenges have you faced in the fashion industry, and how have you overcome them?
I believe the biggest challenge was overcoming procrastination and actually going out and doing what I said I would do. I am constantly communicating with customers and trying to improve our products weekly based on the feedback we have received. Dear Lover swimwear has improved in quality drastically since the launch of the brand. We are always trying to find ways to improve.
9. Can you tell us about a particular moment or achievement in your career that you are most proud of and why it stands out to you?
Every time I get a new order notification is a moment of achievement for me, because it means someone trust me and trusts what I have created. Loyal customers also give me the confidence that they truly like my brand. Alongside Dear Lover, I have had some amazing modelling opportunities that I am very lucky to be a part of.
10. You’ve made remarkable strides in your career at a young age. What are your future goals and aspirations for both “Dear Lover” and your personal journey in entrepreneurship and fashion?
I am actively in the phase of testing out various concepts for Dear Lover, given the numerous ideas I have. Although swimwear will always be the core of Dear Lover, we are currently looking at exploring new opportunities for the brand.
Regarding my personal journey up to the age of 22, I am very happy with how far I’ve come. I am yet to graduate in the next couple of months and I am excited and open to see what life has to offer.